It’s a tale as old as time. New York City party girl claims to be a German Heiress, but doesn’t actually have any money. With absolutely no resources or connections, she schemes her way to the top of both the social and business world, getting just weeks away from securing a multimillion dollar loan from one of the nations top lenders all while being just 26 years old.
I say that it’s a tale as old as time because we all read the Vanity Fair article back in 2018 and then we went and read The Cut expose. (If you haven’t, you should do that first, or else leave this review because I will be spoiling “Inventing Anna” under the assumption that we all already know what happened). Jessica Pressler, the reporter that the character Vivian is based after, pulled us all even deeper into the world that Rachel, Anna Delvey’s ex-friend and the only friend to be named in the court brief, created for us with her first person narrative. The story wasn’t really that interesting. Anna didn’t really seem to have all that much appeal, but we still could not look away.
We read it.
We talked about it.
We made Anna Delvey famous.
That dichotomy is on full display in “Inventing Anna”. This was a Shonda Rhimes production, and as a result the cinematography and pacing is incredible, the music pulls you in at all the right moments, and each and every character is fully developed. Except, in this case, Anna is not. Anna Delvey is a mystery. That’s part of what made the articles about her so alluring, and it’s the reason any of us watched this show to the end. But it’s also impossible for any actress, no matter how talented, to be able to pull of Anna Delvey’s charm. After watching the show, Anna still seems empty. I still don’t know Anna, even though half of it is from her point of view. I’m not sure what Rhimes or Julia Garner (who played Delvey) could have done better, but it still didn’t feel quite right.
Delvey has a strange accent that’s jarring at first, although Garner does achieve a fairly close approximation of the true accent, and although people describe her in all different ways, the actual performance of Anna comes off as somewhat one dimensional. That being said, the story and her character were still enough to propel me into a 7 hour binge where I watched nearly all of the episodes in one sitting.
I loved the attention to detail, down to Netflix genuinely creating the Instagram account for Anna’s court outfits (which, by the way, exists for real life Anna Delvey as well). They had her wear a white dress on the last day, just like real life, and these small details added so much to the overall story and to Anna’s character. Based on rereading the expose and what I remember from the time, it seems like Netflix did their best to create a fairly accurate impression of Anna based on the details that are available to us. Anna Delvey truly did become famous.
I have heard, however, that Jessica Pressler is not super happy about how she was portrayed, but the show did change her name to Vivian when they left all of the other characters names the same, so I expect that this was truly a fictionalization in order to make the story more interesting.
What made this show good is that the side characters were so fully fleshed out and three dimensional. Was Vivian a great character? eh. Were the three other people sitting out there with her in Scriberia great characters? Yes. The same can be true of the dichotomy between Anna and her friends, Neff, Rachel, and Kacy. The three of them carried much of the story because they were so dynamic and alive and real.
So would I recommend this show? Honestly, only if you were one of the thousands of people that were obsessed with the initial articles a few years back. If you thought the whole thing was dumb, then you’ll feel similarly about this show. But as for me and the people like me, I binged it and have no regrets about the use of time.